Back to the hardwood, ‘Cats try to reverse fortunes

Matt Lefebvre

After a season which found the Bobcats falling just one game short of the NEC Tournament, the men’s basketball team and its fans have high hopes for a return to the postseason. They will try to meet these expectations and exceed them with rebounding and defense according to Head Coach Joe DeSantis.

DeSantis,, who is entering his ninth season at the helm on the Quinnipiac bench, has spent the off-season and practice time making his team more focused on defense and more aggressive on the glass. He has compiled a 82-140 mark over his first eight seasons in Hamden.

In the 2003-04 NEC Pre-Season Coaches’ Poll, the ‘Cats were picked No. 1. Many other college basketball publications picked QU to win the NEC and appear in its first NCAA Tournament. The team almost completed a 180 degree turn however, finishing No. 10 at 9-20 (5-13 NEC). This season, the ‘Cats were selected a modest No. 8, which would still qualify them for the NEC Tournament. This could be a blessing in disguise for QU as they will not have the pressure of a pre-season No. 1 on their backs and will not have the rest of the conference hunting them down.

The Bobcats will be anchored by its two standout seniors; guard Rob Monroe (Lanham, Md.) and forward/center C.J. Vick (Springfield, Va.).

Monroe, who was the NEC Rookie of the Year for the 2001-02 campaign while leading the nation in assist to turnover ratio, is coming off a season which saw him average 15.5 PPG and 5.16 APG. He became the 30th player in Quinnipiac history to score 1,000 points for his career and just the fourth to do so exclusively at the Division 1 level. Monroe was also the quickest to reach this feat, doing it in just 71 career games. The Bobcats’ floor general had his season cut short however; missing the final four games of the campaign with a broken foot.

Vick, a 6’9″ interior player, can play either the four or five spot. He averaged 9.8 PPG and pulled down 6.6 RPG, second on the team to graduated forward Rashaun Banjo. He tallied five double doubles last season including a career performance against Northern Arizona where he dropped in 21 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. Vick should now be the second scoring option behind Monroe as he as increased his points per game total every season. The Springfield product now needs 343 points to become the 31st player in school history to have 1,000 for his career and only needs 56 rebounds for 500 in his career. He would need to average 12.7 PPG over the course of the 27 game regular season to reach this plateau.

Junior Craig Benson will be Monroe’s backcourt partner in 2004-05 as he has been for much of his career. Benson started 19 games last season, playing in 23 overall and played in every game as a freshman. He averaged 7.9 PPG last year while shooting .374 from beyond the three point arc.

Pierre Faye, a transfer a year ago from Trinity Valley Junior College (Texas) will start at forward for the ‘Cats after an impressive first season in Hamden. The 6’9″ native of Dakar, Senegal averaged 2.8 PPG and pull down 1.8 RPG a year ago but is expected to make significant strides this season. As a junior Faye started six of the 28 games he appeared in.

The talented freshman class of a year ago is back with a year of Division 1 basketball under their respective belts. Guard Van Crafton (Hanover, Ind.), and forwards Christian Burns (Hamilton, N.J.), Karl Anderson (Chester, N.Y.) and Dale Meinbresse (Upper St. Clair, Pa.) are all expected to play significant minutes this season.

Crafton a three point specialist who hails from the same town as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, Larry Bird, averaged 6.8 PPG and shot .422 (57-135) from beyond the three point line.

Only Crafton played for minutes as a freshman, 468, than Meinbresse (202). The 6’4″ guard scored a career high 10 points against Mount St. Mary’s during his freshman campaign and averaged 1.0 PPG.

Anderson and Burns are both expected to make a significant impact in the paint this season. Anderson, who red-shirted last season after sustaining a foot injury, will be back for the 2004-05 season and will play a large roll in the team’s new defense and rebound mentality. Burns, who bulked up over the off-season, is coming off a 2.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG freshman showing.

A few changes were made since last season as centers Adam Tancredi and Jerry Fiefie both transferred. Trancredi will now play for Cal State Fullerton and Fiefie moved on to Manhattanville whom QU played a year ago. The incoming class of players will off set these transfers mainly because it is one of the largest in recent memory for the Bobcats. Guards Gerry Corcoran (Norwell, Mass./Worcester Academy) and Da-Shawn Dwight (Bloomfield, N.J./Bloomfield Tech) and forwards Jason Holeyfield (Bridgeport/Globe Institute) and Kevin Jolley (Cheverly, Md./Hutchinson CC) will add depth to the team this year while Tennessee transfer John Winchester will have to red-shirt the 2004-05 season. Winchester averaged 5.4 PPG and grabbed 2.0 RPG for the Volunteers who finished 15-14 last season and earned a birth to the NIT Tournament.

The Bobcats’ non-conference schedule will consist of home games against Concordia (Nov. 20), Cornell (Dec. 1) and Longwood (Jan. 2). The road schedule is substantially harder and longer as the ‘Cats will go to Dartmouth (Nov. 23), Longwood (Nov. 27), Drexel (Dec. 11), Northern Arizona (Dec. 21) and UConn (Dec. 30.)